2009 Game of the Year Awards

2009 was both a revelation and a revolution in the field of Electronic Gaming.

2008 ended with the gaming industry hanging on a gigantic question mark: How would gaming be affected by the sudden downturn in the economy?

Everyone knew something would happen, but no one could have predicted such a mixed bag of results: In January Microsoft shut down its ACES Studios (responsible for their most successful in-house property Microsoft Flight Simulator), that same month Ensemble Studios (makers of the Age of Empires series) shut its doors, and the struggling economy finally forced Sony’s hand on a long-awaited PS3 price drop.

The latter of these, although obviously a boon for Sony itself, also reignited slumping sales for both the X-box 360 and Wii (who responded with price-drops of their own), and breathed new life into game sales across the board. The word was out: Recession-be-damned gamers were willing to buy as long as they got whatever they bought on sale.

This is the story of the games people were buying those systems for.

*GAME OF THE YEAR*

This ain’t the VGA’s on GTV… This is the TEAM RAINLESS award for electronic excellence. This isn’t based on who sold the most units or how well-liked a franchise is.  I’m awarding the OCF Game of the Year based purely on merit. That said… you’re not going to see Modern Warfare 2 on this list.  You don’t make a list based on merit by peeing all over the customers that brought you to the dance just because you’re going to make a billion dollars anyway. More than that: I didn’t even think Modern Warfare 2 was a better game than Modern Warfare 1. (Although not posted, I did name it the Xbox 360 Game of the Year… because I don’t actually HAVE a 360 anymore, it was the only 360 game I played this year, and I managed to go through the whole thing in five hours straight at Best Buy… on the 360). I didn’t include games that failed, in some way, to do what they set out to do. So Killzone 2 didn’t make the list because an online FPS that’s released in 2009 without a party system (when even games like GTAIV and Uncharted 2 have them) is inexcusable. Street Fighter IV doesn’t make the list because the whole purpose of a fighting game is to fight people, and you can’t fight people if you can’t even connect to them. (And they have no excuse because Street Fighter’s had better matchmaking since SF2: Turbo was released on Xbox Live Marketplace almost two years ago).

Nobody on my list made it by resting on their laurels. The developers I nominated BUSTED THEIR ASSES to make these games. And when they were finished and polished and playable from beginning to end… they KEPT busting their asses and made the game even BETTER. They added extras and unlockables or released betas and expanded and built-on what they already had to make a Game of the Year a solid contender for Best Game of All Time.

So keep that in mind when you’re looking over this list.  (And I’ve already had and beaten down every argument for and against every game that did and didn’t make it onto the list… so keep that in mind as well.)

CONSOLE GAME OF THE YEAR

BlazBlue

I’m really disappointed that Street Fighter IV isn’t in this spot of the nominations, but Capcom only have themselves to blame. Sitting in a lobby “JOIN GAME/COULD NOT CONNECT”ing is just no fun.  Enter BlazBlue. If BlazBlue didn’t succeed at everything then it was only because it dared to do so much. A fighting game with TRULY unique characters, robust online multiplayer options, a steep learning curve for even the most skilled aficionados, and bedazzling rewards for anyone who dug deep enough to find them, BlazBlue came out of nowhere to steal the crown of 2009′s unprecedented field of pretenders.

Uncharted 2

Naughty Dog is not in the business of making bad games. So, quite naturally, everyone expected the sequel to its flagship title to be good.  As screen shots and videos began to leak all over the internet, however, it became apparent that no one could have predicted how far they would go.  What gamers wound up with was a product of unprecedented beauty and style that didn’t take itself too seriously, but set out to make a statement on, not what everyone expected the industry to be, but what thought, effort and imagination COULD make it.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

The 2000′s were a decade of disaster for the Caped Crusader.  Alfred was murdered, Bruce Wayne’s dead, and almost more bad Batman games were produced than bad Dragon Ball Z games. Quite naturally, when Arkham Asylum was first announced, nobody gave it a first… let alone a second thought.  The marketing team must’ve worked overtime trying to change that image… Months before the release people were finally excited about a Batman game again. The first eye-opener was that it would NOT be based on a Batman movie. Next came the news that the award-winning cast of Batman: The Animated Series (including Mark Skywalker as The Joker) would be filling-out the voice work.  Then the screenshots! Was this really happening?  The video raised a few doubts when Batman appeared to be moving more like Tinman… but all haters were silenced by the time the game was released. Miracle of Miracles: The new Batman game wasn’t just good… it was GREAT.

Winner: BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM

It came out late.  You know what? I wish MORE games would come out late.  I would rather have a game come out late… and get it right… than be released too early and screw it all up (are you listening Gran Turismo 5 developers).   Without many frills and without any fuss Arkham Asylum set out to do something and succeeded in doing it with aplomb. There’s no half-ass multi-player tacked on (with say four Batmen versus six Jokers), no RPG element (though there is a silly “skill expansion” thing), Batman either goes back to the Batcave and gets what he needs or pulls it off of his utility belt. The style, the atmosphere, the combat system, and the performances all came together. Were the production values as high as Uncharted 2? No they were not. Did it have the play time of Dragon Age: Origins? No it did not. But it wasn’t trying to be either of those games. It didn’t try to be anything. But, by mixing stealth, adventure, and brawler elements, what they managed to do was create a brand new genre (and a rock solid Batman adventure) out of thin air. Part Metal Gear, part Tomb Raider, part Final Fight, and even part Uncharted… Batman blended the best available gaming elements into 2009′s Game of the Year.

PC Game of the Year

Winner: Dragon Age Origins

2009 will NOT go down as the greatest year in PC gaming history. Half of the PC software developers went out of business, and most of the other half started focusing mainly on console games (your PC game using “GameSpy” for multi-player is NOT a good sign). Ports abounded this year. But… as they’ve said themselves… Bioware doesn’t do ports. What Bioware does is kickass and take names. And thank goodness they made enough money off of Baldur’s Gate to still be in business today. Dragon Age Origins pimp-slapped every other PC game that came out this year. (I’m looking at YOU Borderlands and Left 4 Dead 2.) They did away with the Dungeons and Dragons system and jacked up the story and graphics to deliver another Bioware classic. Any year these guys are putting out a game, the competition can just forget about it.

Portable Game of the Year

Winner: Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes

I knew this would be the hardest award to dish out in a year that also featured Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Dissidia: Final Fantasy, and Phantasy Star Zero (as well as GTA: Chinatown Wars as an Honorable Mention). But if you want to know what took me so long to finish writing this article: I couldn’t STOP playing Clash of Heroes. The storyline was deceptively simple, and as it evolved you found yourself trapped by the addictive quality of the battle sequences. You think you’re only playing for a few minutes, but by then DAYS have gone by here in the real world. Part Final Fantasy: Tactics and part Columns Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes replicated Arkham Asylum’s feat of creating an entirely new kind of game and executing it flawlessly. We’re talking about no bugs… no patches… just a solid and polished experience, a memorable story and cast of characters, and a team I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of in the future.

-Rainless

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13 Comments:

Neuromancer's Avatar
Interesting article Rainless, as always.

I can't comment on console games because the only consoles I own are for the kids. (xbox and wii)

However, dragon agerigins is without a doubt one of the best PC games I have ever played.

All the playability of the KoTOR series from lucas arts but it also includes a deep and moving story line that shocked me completely. I do not recall ever being so interested in completing the characters story lines. Normally one seeks out quests in order to accrue experience or sweet new swag, this game however the characters are easily half the story.

Some great actors fill out the cast voices, with Sci-fi buffs favorite Claudia Black, the always entertaining Steve Valentine, Tim Curry, and although I have not heard of her before Corinne Kempa does as fantastic job as Lelianna. I can't wait for the expansion pack to come out
SteveLord's Avatar
I agree. I was hooked on this game for 3 straight weeks and put in 97 hours to beat it. I thought the story and especially the characters were done really well. And even though it was heavy on dialogue, there were many times you were surprised at the reactions you would get to the responses you chose.
{PGA}AfterShock's Avatar
so happy to see Modern Warfare 2 didn't make the list. That game earns The biggest fail of the year in my book. there sales figures aren't as impressive as they are made out to be, I think they were including how many pirated downloads they achieved as well which was way more than copies sold. I hope after 2010 release of the new cod that this game is shelved because i would hate to see what IW does to the next one. end of rant
I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
You grant wishes... Hmmm

Does that make you the gaming fairy?
shard's Avatar
It has been a long time since I have just grinned like an evil monkey, and felt downright pleased with the game I was playing. Arkham Asylum did just that. Every step of the way I was having a blast, and just plain enjoying myself. Been awhile since that really happened. Ever since I finished it shortly after it's release, I have been saying it is game of the year. It definitely deserves it.
GrimX9's Avatar
Can you grant us Mass Effect 2 Early for PC? And not a port from console to PC either?
lordkosc's Avatar
Batman was good, its my GOTY on PC <3
Aynjell's Avatar
I'm glad Dragon Age made your top game of the year, I whole-heartedly agree man.

You can wait 2 more weeks, can't you?
UnrealAlex's Avatar
<-- tears of happiness
Creegz's Avatar
I've been debating whether or not I should give Dragon Age a go. I've been enjoying Fallout 3 and Left 4 Dead 2 a bit lately, also debating if Modern Warfare 2 is worth my money for single player at least.
Aynjell's Avatar
It's one of the best games ever.
Nimblor's Avatar
No Wii Sports Resort? Not even ranked? That sword fighting game is awesome!
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